Ah, the yearbook theme.
Nothing can be more exciting… or stressful. And, speaking of stress, it’s not just associated with what your theme should be, but when you should pick that theme. Truth is, there’s no single best time to choose a yearbook theme. It really depends on your yearbook and the circumstances surrounding it.
Let’s take a look at three of the most popular times to choose a yearbook theme, along with the pros and cons tied to them.
Option 1: Before School Lets Out
Who It’s Good For: High schools with yearbook classes and dedicated yearbook programs, especially those that work on the yearbook all year.
Why It’s Good: If you have a dedicated yearbook class or yearbook program that sends students to yearbook camp, you’re probably going to want a leg up on the school year. There’s no better way to do that than to dive into “next year” right after you send “this year” to the publisher.
Picking a theme before summer vacation means you’ve got a ton of time to really work your theme into all aspects of your yearbook.
It also lets you consider whether you should go with a traditional, chronological coverage approach or whether you should try umbrella coverage, and it frees up plenty of time for brainstorming and creative thinking—two things that can help increase your students’ odds of figuring out that genius new approach to a tried-and-true feature.
And, besides, your class already learned how to incorporate a theme. Why not let them learn what it takes to choose one?
Why It’s Not So Good:
If you’re teaching a yearbook class and picking your theme before the end of the school year, your syllabus will look a little different than it would if your class picked a theme at the beginning of the school year. And that can mean some extra work when it comes to lesson plans.
Aside from #teacherproblems, students joining your class at the beginning of the next school year might feel like they didn’t have an opportunity to influence the yearbook. And, oh yeah, there’s that whole senior-itis and “I can’t wait until summer break” thing that happens to students.
In short, you might not get the best of your students if you pick your theme at the end of the school year. (But you look like you’re a rockstar teacher. We bet that, if anyone can do it, it’s you.)
Option 2: During the Summer
Who It’s Good For: Schools where the yearbook is being put together by one person or by a very small group of people.
Why It’s Good: Like those hardcore yearbook clubs and classes mentioned above, you’re probably going to want as much time as possible to knock out your yearbook… you just need a little bit of a break before you get back to it.
Clearing your mind of all things yearbook until summer break means you can avoid burnout and work on developing a theme on your own schedule. It can be refreshing, remind you why you volunteer to work on the yearbook in the first place, and help you set a larger plan for the upcoming school year.
Knocking out the theme over summer break also means it’s one less thing to scare off any potential volunteers, which you’d probably really appreciate (since your team is so small). You’ll have done a lot of the hard work by the time they’re thinking about joining, and you can remind them of that.
Why It’s Not So Good:
Well, it requires working over the summer. Though we all love yearbooks, developing a theme might not be as enticing as a day trip to the beach, lounging by the pool, or barbecuing with friends.
Additionally, you run the risk of missing out on constructive criticism and feedback from others who might agree to help you come Fall.
Option 3: At the Start of the Year
Who It’s Good For: Elementary schools that rely heavily on parent volunteers or yearbook clubs that primarily recruit students at the beginning of the school year.
Why It’s Good: Some volunteer committees that run the yearbook don’t really get started until a PTA/PTO back-to-school meeting. If that’s the boat you’re in, holding off on a heavy investment in theme development can reap you the ultimate reward: increased parent buy-in.
Remember, at the elementary school level, parents can have as much connection to the yearbook as students. (After all, it’s a great vehicle for them to see how much their child has grown.) Letting those parents know they can help shape the entire yearbook can help you get more help for it. The same can be said for older students who wait to join a yearbook club until the beginning of the year: something got them interested; don’t dissuade them by taking away the “fun stuff.”
Waiting to pick a theme until the beginning of the school year can do more than just get you more help. It can also get you better help. The more invested someone feels in a project, the more likely they are to prioritize it on their list of things to do. That means the yearbook isn’t an afterthought to your volunteers. And that means you’ll create a better yearbook.
Why It’s Not So Good:
Really, it’s that simple. The only bummer associated with waiting to pick your yearbook theme until school is back in session is that you’ll be pressed for time.
If you’re looking to create a book that’s really united by its theme, your volunteers might feel rudderless until you have one. So, the pressure will be on. (But you can still work on a lot of the basic content in the meantime—so it’s not necessarily as hectic as it may seem.)
Which One is Best for You?
Like we said at the beginning, the best time to choose a theme depends on your situation. Don’t just pick one at a certain time because you heard “it’s the right thing to do.” Pick one when it’s right for you.
To help you, we’ve compiled an easy reference chart to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each time of year we’ve discussed above. Use this table to help you determine what’s best for your committee:
Of course, you could also do a yearbook without a theme. But what’s the fun in that?